Ghosts, Bombs, and Rings! The Expanse: “It Reaches Out”

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Holy crap did all of last week’s set up pay off for The Expanse! The week’s episode, “It Reaches Out,” wound tighter and tighter until a final ten minutes of action that made me want next week’s installment RIGHT NOW.

But alas, I’ll have to wait. Can I just mention how happy I am that this show is going to keep going after this season? Because I want all the seasons.

Now that poor idiot Maneo has crashed into The Ring, the stakes have somehow gotten even higher—contact with The Ring essentially liquified him, while seemingly leaving his suit and ship intact, and everyone witnessed it. The Earther contingent on the Thomas Prince challenge Anna, asking if her God is waiting beyond The Ring. She allows that she doesn’t know, but then snaps back with: “If we are going to meet God as a bunch of angry fools we should turn these ships around and go home.” With the non-Anna people put back in their place, the episode weaves beautifully through each ship and point of tension, until one ship explodes, multiple other ships have missiles locked on the Roci, Holden thinks he’s going nuts, and a dead guy is mumbling weird stuff in a corner. Let’s dig in.

 

Meanwhile, on The Behemoth!

OK, Ashford is growing on me, slightly. I liked his toast to Maneo the fallen rockhopper: “The inners would have stood outside tapping and waiting for an invitation.” But I also wish we could have just had one glorious thread about the friendship between Naomi and Drummer. Ashford is also pushing Drummer to be the kind of leader he wants her to be, right up to the end when he’s the one hounding her to fire on the Roci while Naomi screams at her to wait. (Naomi even uses Drummer’s first name, Camina.) Luckily for the Roci, the system seems to go down for a few seconds, which gives them some lead time.

 

Meanwhile…Melba. What is your deal?

Melba uses her super-strength to smush poor Ren’s head like an old melon and fit him inside a wall panel. Hasn’t anyone gone looking for him? Poor smushed dude. But this allows Melba to arm the bomb before she goes back to the main ship. The main ship seems to be hosting a crazy delegation of people. A priest holds forth at a dinner table, saying that he has no fear of whatever’s beyond The Ring. Pastor Anna doesn’t look so sure, but is also more interested in checking on Melba, who’s openly crying at another table. Of course Melba refuses any help and ducks away, but she does seem to consider Anna for a beat. So why is she doing this? She doesn’t seem like a killer. Her murder and the looming explosion are weighing on her mind. So who is she working for, and why can’t she find a way out? She detonates the bomb, and one of the UN’s science ships goes up….but then it gets so much worse. Somehow she has a video of Holden, claiming he’s speaking for the OPA, taking credit for the bombing, and saying the Earth and Mars have no right to The Ring. She’s able to broadcast this message to all the ships, while a somewhat incapacitated Roci can do nothing.

 

Meanwhile, on the Roci…HOLY CRAP

The last act of this episode is a masterpiece. The buildup of Miller’s appearances and the invasions of the documentary camera winds the tension on the Roci tighter and tighter, until the emotional explosions on board perfectly mirror Melba’s bomb detonation. We can track Amos and Alex’s increasing worry, Holden’s panic, and what seems to be sabotage from the documentary crew. The documentary cameraman, Cohen, asks Amos if he should be holding out any hope. After a surprisingly long moment of hesitation, Amos says, “You should not.” Which, since I care about Amos’ happiness and well-being this made me sad, but since it seems like Cohen is messing around with the Roci’s wiring, I think his whole flirtation is just a decoy. Which, well, stop toying with Amos’ emotions! He barely even has them. Go flirt with Alex or something.

The director is still trying to get Holden to open up, but since ‘opening up’ would mean ‘admitting a dead guy is talking to him,’ Holden is understandably reticent.

So, about that dead guy. Holden is still seeing Miller, and their unsettling, stuttering conversations are mostly the detective repeating certain phrases: “Doors and corners,” “It’s the thing you don’t see coming,” “I’m just an investigator now, I find things.” Holden can’t get him to stay, can’t get him to make sense. Miller keeps coming back to the rookie he trained who didn’t know to clear a room before he burst in and he keeps talking about a brothel on Ceres. Holden gets over his panic just enough to ask about Julie Mao, but Miller says he doesn’t want to talk about Julie. (But does he remember her?) The obsession with the rookie makes me think that Miller is trying to teach Holden something, but again, who knows how much of this is really him. Holden, being smart, puts himself through a full diagnostic check. He checks himself for the protomolecule 35 times (each test is negative obviously) and then he films one of his encounters with Miller to confirm nothing is there—or at least that nothing visible has been captured by the camera. Amos walks in to find Holden screaming at nothing, and when Holden admits that it probably look weird, Amos demurs. “Hey. None of my business, but if you have anything you need to get off your chest, I’m no good at that stuff, but I don’t judge.”

And this is why you’re my favorite, Amos.

But then Amos looks through the auto-doc records to see that Holden ran the protomolecule test on himself 35 times, and of course tells Alex, who chastises him for invading Holden’s privacy, and then of course tells him to spill the tea… while the cameraman secretly records everything. While they’re freaking out about that, Holden realizes that Miller manifested at exactly the moment Maneo crashed into The Ring. For the first time, he is kinda/sorta able to call Miller, and have something closer to a real conversation. Miller explains that the ship goes places, and the investigator finds things. Holden mulls this and says, “We’re tools.” Miller goes on, saying that when he hits the limit he’s killed and rebuilt.

Oh, man, this gets worse and worse.

Of course this is when the bomb goes off, and Holden runs to the bridge to find that missiles are locking on them. Holden does something he’s never done: asks Amos to trust him. Amos considers this even longer than he considered Cohen, and then gives him one minute. Holden again summons Miller, and has enough of a conversation that the next thing we see is him yelling at Alex, ordering him to drop the ship’s speed and essentially fall into The Ring.

Alex does it, but he’s not happy about it.

And suddenly it seems like they’re suspended in time hovering above The Ring, the missile moving toward them infinitesimal degrees.

But they can all move, and speak.

It looks like Miller just bought them some time.

 

Random Thoughts Floating in the Void of Space

  • Ashford to Drummer: “I was specifically promised by Dawes that I could be the cynical one.” Don’t make me like you, you big jerk. I know you’re just going to betray everyone eventually. Jerk.
  • So what is Miller? my assumption is that he’s a projection of the protomolecule that’s still on the ship, merged with scraps of Miller’s own consciousness. He tells holden that thirteen times per second it reaches out, looking for a door. That when the detective can’t find what it needs, he is killed and rebuilt, killed and rebuilt. He doesn’t seem like he’s in pain? But that would drive me nuts. And he seems to have an overarching awareness of what’s being done to him, and has obviously been at this long enough that he’s pieced together the pattern. But even by saying that, I’m assuming that the consciousness talking to Holden is, in some way, the Miller we already knew.
  • Is Melba connected to Holden in some way? Don’t actually tell me! I like guessing.
  • I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much I like Naomi’s Belter patois coming out. It’s a nice subtle moment of codeswitching in the midst of all the action.
  • I really wish we could sit at the dinner table on the UN ship longer. I want to know all of the people who are part of the humanitarian mission, I want to see more clashes between RELIGION and SCIENCE, and most of all, I want more of Anna’s snarky dinner companion. She seemed great.

 

Book Notes for Book Nerds

OK, book friends, I do NOT know where to start. In two episodes, we’ve blown through close to 200 pages of Abaddon’s Gate, and while I am loving it, I am also wondering if we could pretty please slow down for maybe 5-10 minutes of character development that isn’t about Holden’s insecurity about his own brain? We could use much more Anna; more sense of what the UNN delegation is all about; more sense of the absolute mystery of this thing floating in space; more science! Send some probes, dangit!

We never got the line I was so looking forward to—”We need to talk.”—but this incarnation of Miller is pretty great, though I miss his firefly friends. I remember Holden’s stress about why he’s seeing Miller at all being less all-consuming, narratively speaking, in the book, but I understand why it’s being amped up here (if less why Amos reacts the way he does; hello, there are strangers on the ship! Distrust them first!).

But what I’m really fascinated by is the mashup of TV and book characters on the bridge of the Behemoth. We’re down Bull and Michio Pa, but Naomi’s on board—which makes me sad in a way, as she’s not on the Roci for some exciting/terrifying shit, but also makes perfect sense in terms of keeping viewers invested in the really important stuff happening on the Behemoth.

I just can’t quite figure out who’s taking which positions, which is a really fun mental game to play in between the moments of extreme tension. And dang, this had a lot of it. It’s interesting how little is known about the Ring at the point, as opposed to when the Roci heads for it in the novel; it’s also really interesting how they’ve compacted Melba’s plot. It makes a ton of narrative sense but means that TV viewers are going to have a very different read on her than us book nerds, who Know Things.

In closing: Who else was delighted to see Tilly? Also, Amos trusting Holden for one single minute gave me a lot of Amos feels that I did not expect.

 

Leah Schnelbach wants to know how many times poor Miller’s been killed and rebuilt. Ugh. Come check doors and corners with her on Twitter!

Molly Templeton is also super into Naomi’s fluctuating Belter accent, which has got to involve some serious practice—that is HARD to imitate! Anyway, she’s also often yelling about The Expanse on Twitter.

 

 

 

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